Camino Portuguese-Finesterre-Muxia Part 14 – ‘What I Packed and Why’


First day out of Porto. Strong winds nearly blow off my hat while sand pelts my face and finds it’s way into my mouth.


Camino Portuguese: What I Packed And Why

Before I start writing about our 231 mile walk (371 Km) from Porto, Portugal to Muxia, Spain I thought I should tell you what I carried in my pack and why.


Gear ready to be packed.

The best advice I can give based on two Caminos and an Appalachian Trail hike is pack light and know your boots. A light pack is easy on your body and makes hiking more fun. Whether you are walking the Camino Frances or Portuguese you will pass countless stores selling everything you need to make it to Santiago; when in doubt, leave it at home. And as for the boots, you should have hiked enough miles in them to know that they will not turn your feet into painful oozing stumps by day three or cause you to end your hike early.


The essentials: First Aid Kit, ear plugs, Ibuprofen, sewing kit and steroid cream.

The Camino is not a wilderness hike. Each day you will be able to buy food, wine, sun screen, another shirt if you are cold, etc. Typically a 1/2 liter of water with some licorice or bread and cheese carried me to the next town. On some long hot stretches between Lisbon and Porto I carried a full liter. Another advantage of carrying a small pack is it can easily be brought into a cafe or onto a bus without hassle. We did our Camino Frances between August and October and Portuguese between June and July, a twenty-two liter pack was the perfect size for us.


A smaller backpack also allows you to lift weights during your hike.

On the Frances the extra gear I needed for my non-Camino travels I mailed ahead to Iver Rakve in Santiago. He held it for about six weeks and charged me twenty Euros. ( Iver is the founder of the Camino Forum. I carried it over the Pyrenees and mailed it from Pamplona because it was cheaper than mailing it from France and it did not have to go through customs. Without that gear I had 20% more room in my pack, but didn’t need it.


Before I buy boots I make sure I can fit two fingers between my heel and the back of the boot. The extra room allows for foot swelling and prevents my toes from hitting the front of the boot during downhills.

On the Camino you will be walking on sidewalks, asphalt roads and relatively smooth dirt and stone paths. That means you can hike in quick drying, lightweight boots. My feet are happy in Merrell Moab Ventilators. I have worn out at least four pair over a few thousand miles and have never had a blister problem. Boots being too small is the most common cause of foot troubles. Your feet swell as you hike, especially in hot weather. To make sure I don’t buy boots that are too small I slip two fingers in between my heel and the back of my boot. That extra room is necessary on descents to prevent my toes from striking the front of the boot and turning my nail beds black. My wife has bunions which requires a boot to be wider across the base of the toes, the Oboz brand works best for her.  A pair of flip-flops is also nice to have since many alburgues require you to leave your boots at the door.

I would not take on a rugged path like the Appalachian Trail without hiking poles. But the Camino Frances and Portuguese are relatively smooth and gentle with miles of city walking, I did not find hiking poles worth the trouble.

When it comes to lodging most pilgrims will sleep each night in an alburgue on a mattress, so unless you are planning on camping I do not see a sleeping bag, pad or tent as a necessity. In place of carrying a ponderous sleeping bag I packed a Reactor Thermolite bag liner that weighed 8 ounces and compressed down to 3x3x5 inches. Despite being a “cold sleeper” I used the blankets provided by the alburgues only once or twice. Before I left home I treated my bag liner, stuff sacks and backpack with Permethrin and had no problems with bedbugs. Premethrin is an odorless product that kills and repels bedbugs, mosquitoes, and ticks for 42 days. You can spray it on clothing, packs, stuff sacks, etc.

The other thing to keep in mind is that every alburgue has a place to hand-wash and hang-dry your clothes, so you don’t need much clothing. I hiked in running shorts that had a built-in liner and a lightweight long sleeve Travel shirt. They dried quickly and the running shorts did not chafe like heavier weight shorts have. Washing my gear took about ten minutes and by morning everything was dry enough to wear again. The exception was my socks, I wore them to bed and by morning they were bone dry. Wearing them to bed worked much better than hanging them off my pack all day. On my Portuguese hike, while my clothes were drying, I wore a T-shirt and a pair of lightweight long pants. I slept in that  T-shirt and a second pair of running shorts that I used exclusively for sleeping.

For outer wear I had an old Golite wind shirt, a Marmot Precip jacket and a mesh hat with a broad brim which caused some to ask, “Are you from Texas?” That’s all the clothing I needed for a June – July Camino Portuguese hike.

As for a travel towel I have gotten by happily for decades with just a bandana. I have found nothing rolls up smaller, has as many uses or dries quicker. For washing both my body and clothing I used Lush bar soap.


The red notebook is used for basic journaling; daily milage, overnight stops, etc. The tan notebook is for story writing. In the middle is my credentials with stamps from places visited along the way.

On my Portuguese hike I had no interest in staying connected, blogging or posting on Instagram. I carried a pen, notebook and a small Olympus TG-4 waterproof camera. I did carry an iPod Touch to check email, pay bills and make an occasional reservation. My wife used her iPod Touch with Google Voice and WIFI to call her 97 year old father in New York for free almost daily. One advantage of carrying a camera in addition to my iPod was that I always had enough charge to last all day. My wife used her iPod for both communications and photography, some afternoons it ran out of juice and she had to borrow mine.

I traded the fanny pack (bumbag) I used on the Frances for a shoulder bag on the Portuguese. In that bag I carried the things I wanted with me at all times such as my notebook, passport, iPod, camera, etc. When we stopped at a cafe I could quickly pull it out of my backpack and head inside.


My pack at bedtime. The green sack has my sleep gear and the mesh bag my shave kit. All bags, including my backpack, are treated with Permethrin to kill and repel bedbugs, ticks and mosquitoes.


All my gear was carried in one of three waterproof, Permethrin treated stuff sacks. I prefer them over pack covers. A fourth sack was my shave kit. Just before going to sleep two of the sacks were placed in my backpack and the third one (sleeping gear), along with the shave kit, were clipped to the outside. Clipping the stuff sack and shave kit to my backpack made leaving in the morning easy and forgetting something nearly impossible. It is common to forget or lose things around your bunk in the morning, it’s dark and you’re half asleep. People also forget gear in the bathroom and on clothes lines. A carabiner attached to my backpack with a foot of thin line allowed me to hang it from my bunk. That kept it off the floor and made it easier to pack . Most pilgrims will rise before dawn and on their way out you will hear them tripping over packs, clothing and flip-flops.

So that’s what I packed and why.  A gear list is attached for those interested in more detail. I don’t know what all my gear weighed but my pack looked to be 1/3 to 1/2 smaller than most Camino packs. If you don’t agree with my hiking style don’t get your panties in a twist. It’s your Camino, do it your way and have a great time.

Gear List – (Backpack, bag liner and all stuff sacks were treated with Permethrin)

Osprey Talon 22 liter pack, Eagle Creek shoulder bag, Stuff sacks-3, Carabiner

Moab Ventilators Boots, Flip-Flops, Socks – 2 thin, 1 thick

T-shirt, Collared long-sleeve Travel shirt, Broad brim hat

New Balance Running Shorts-2, Light weight long-pants, Underwear-1

Marmot Precip jacket, Golite Wind Shirt, Bandannas-2

Shave Kit – bar soap, deodorant, Contacts/solution, tweezers, nail clippers, razor, tooth brush/paste

First Aid Kit – Motrin, Tylenol, Imodium, Tums, Antibiotics, Sun Screen

Neosporin ointment/Hydrocortisone Cream stored in contact lens case, Bandaids

Ear plugs, Sunglasses, Bifocals, Reading glasses, Needle/Thread

Sleeping-bag liner (Permethin treated)

iPod/cables, plug adapter, Ear Buds, Headlamp, Camera/charger with 3 batteries

Passport, Drivers license, Credit cards, documents, Money belt, Waterproof pouch

Notebooks (2), pencil, pen, Brierley guidebook

Ziplock bags, plastic knife, fork, spoon

Categories: Hiking, Travel

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

36 replies

  1. Happy New Year! – Gilligan

    • Hey Gilligan! I was just thinking about you, your smiling face popped up in my collection of ‘Favorite AT photos’. I hope 2017 is a great year for you and your family and if you ever get to Washingto state give us a shout.

  2. Very interesting to read how you minimise your Camino packing, there’s no point being weighed down with surplus gear. Hope you had a good Christmas and all best wishes for 2017.

  3. I’ve enjoyed reading about your CP journey. Check your email (hope it’s the same) for info about our upcoming CP in May.

  4. Great advice. May all your journeys be comfortable one – no cramped toes.

  5. You know what? …Only you could turn a “Gear Packing List” into an interesting post. I really enjoyed this and learned so much!! As I read it my mind kept revisiting several scenes of the movie “The Way” (with Martin Sheen). I’ve seen the movie twice, and this post made me want to see it once more. Thank you for sharing. Happy New Year!! 🙂

    • Yes, bunions and chafing seldom makes it to the Best Sellers List. Thank you very much for your sweet comments. This post makes me want to see “The Way” again too. I hope 2017 is a great year for you and your family.

  6. It’s such a useful list and very technicalities of trekking n tripping is very important

  7. I was unfamiliar with the Camino pilgrimages and am fascinated by the concept. Most of our hiking has been in national parks in the U.S., or city walking wherever we find ourselves. Your carefully crafted list is terrific. Never thought of using Permethrin, but it’s a great idea. For the med kit, we always packed mole skin and a tiny pair of scissors. It’s saved my feet more than once.

    • I agree, mole skin is like American Express, don’t leave home without it. 🙂 I think Permethrin is great stuff, especially in lyme disease country. Fortunately the Camino doesn’t have a lyme problem, unlike the eastern US. Thanks, Beth.

  8. It is so great that you like travelling ! It is great hobby !
    I leave you my post about celebration of New Year’s Eve in Madrid

  9. I’m getting more and more fond of smaller compartment bags in luggage as you use. Makes things so much easier. And I love the idea of the ointments in the contact case!-)

    • It certainly was easier to pack light for the Camino than trips where you need to deal with mountains, deserts and four seasons. The contact lens case idea came from a cyclist on RAGRAI who carried his sunscreen in one. Just thinking about all that makes me want to start packing for another trip. 🙂

  10. Great advice, Thanks…I use contact lens cases for holding prescriptions too.

  11. Great tips, I am traveling to Spain in the summer and will defiantly be doing some hiking. Cheers !

  12. Such a great choosen equipment. I can see that you have experience in travelling 😀

    • Hi, B. Thanks. You really don’t need much to hike the Camino. By the way your photographs of Christmas in Naples were beautiful. Happy travels.

      • Thank you for you answer. If you are travelling finally you realize that if you take less things it is more easy to change the places – you do not have carry to much.
        I am glad that you enjoy my post about Naples (after write about Madrid and Barcelona Christmas decorations came time for Italia and Naples). The post is from my trip to Italy I’ve just returned. I am going to publish more about Italian cities 😀

  13. These are some excellent tips! I liked your tip for that you shared when buying hiking boots 🙂 And your first aid kit list reminded me of my dad. He is very particular when it comes to packing, especially the first aid kit.

  14. I hope to do that walk, one day. Congrats! Are you guys going again? And thanks for following my story, too. Hope to get some ideas and feedback from you.

  15. Glad to see a fellow light traveller. I walked the Camino Norte in 2016 with a 20L pack that weighed 2.8kg full (without water). A young, male German pilgrim (carrying an 80L) pack (!!!) fell in step one day and asked me if I had sent my luggage ahead. When I told him that my entire kit was on my back he stopped, looked at me and said, “but you’re a girl!” As an almost-50-year-old, this was the nicest compliment I received in my entire camino. I’m heading back again in 2018 to walk, this time aiming to cut down to 2.5kg. My packing philosophy has been, if you can’t wear it in some way, don’t take it … even down to the silk sleep sheet (not sleep bag) that I have worn as a sarong and a skirt.

    • Hi Sharon,

      That is a good story and a well deserved compliment. The sleep sheet/sarong idea is very clever. I have yet to try that one. Thanks for taking time to comment and have a great hike.


  1. Camino – What To Pack – brickthomas's Blog ©

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